People line up at Vancouver International Airport Jan. 31, 2020. Media images of people wearing masks have fuelled hoarding and reselling of them, but public health officials say they don’t help healthy people. (The Canadian Press)

Myth of medical masks drives profiteering in B.C. COVID-19 battle

Premier John Horgan warns of ‘crackdown’ on ‘profiteers’

Images of people walking around with medical-style face masks have fed a black market for them, but the sudden popularity hasn’t helped public health in the COVID-19 pandemic, B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer says.

Dr. Bonnie Henry has been asked frequently about the value of N95 masks, so named because they stop 95 per cent of particles three microns or bigger. A coronavirus particle is one to two microns in size, and Canadian and U.S. public health authorities don’t recommend them for general consumer use. The standard disposable masks stop most droplets coming out of your mouth, but not virus particles coming in.

“So if I’m not sick, it’s not effective,” Henry said during a TV town hall meeting on the pandemic in Vancouver March 19. “It’s not something that, when I’m out in public, is going to protect me in any way. And as a matter of fact, people often fiddle with it, and contaminate themselves, and it can lead to more risk.”

Henry has written a book called Soap and Water and Common Sense, after working on the SARS pandemic in 2003. She later was involved in ebola outbreaks in Africa that started in 2012.

RELATED: Precautions for those pregnant in a pandemic

RELATED: B.C. Parks suspends camping until end of April

Health care staff use N95 respirators with eye protection, face visors and gowns when treating people who have tested positive for the coronavirus. N95 respirators are a more tight-fitting mask than the disposable ones commonly seen on streets.

“Where it is incredibly important is in the health care system,” Henry said. “And we need to make sure we have masks and respirators for our health care providers to make sure that they stay safe. And if I am sick, then a mask can help. It can help keep my droplets in so that I’m not infecting others.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix says B.C. has sufficient supplies of protective gear and more on order for people working in health facilities as demand for medical care climbs.

Premier John Horgan warned that the province will “crack down pretty hard” on those trying to buy up and resell disinfectants, masks or other protective gear. B.C.’s emergency authority will be used as necessary to protect public health, he said on the broadcast.

“There’s no space for profiteering in a time of crisis,” Horgan said.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Conservation: Two elk unlawfully shot in Northern Vancouver Island

‘The elk also did not have all of the edible portions of meat removed’

Nanaimo, Royal Jubilee to be Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 frontline hospitals

Other Island hospitals will be admitting COVID-19 patients and will be used in a support role

Port Hardy’s annual summer festival FILOMI Days cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

Port Hardy’s biggest community celebration happens every year from July 17 to 19.

Reflecting on life during a pandemic

‘This is really a once in a lifetime moment where everything has come to a grinding halt’

B.C. secures motel, hotel rooms for COVID-19 shelter space

Community centres, rooms reserved for pandemic self-isolation

Look at hospitalizations, not recovery stats for COVID-19, B.C. professor says

Cases in hospital are a definitive count of people who have the novel coronavirus

B.C. First Nations want to launch fight of Trans Mountain pipeline approval

Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada decided not to hear five challenges about the pipeline

N95 masks on the way for Canada after 3M reaches deal with White House

The Trump White House had ordered 3M to stop shipping masks to Canada

COLUMN: The other graph that shows B.C. can beat COVID-19

Is the curve being flattened? data on hospitalizations provides a crucial answer.

Here’s how to talk to people who aren’t taking physical distancing seriously

Approach the conversation with empathy says conflict expert

B.C. clears more acute hospital beds as COVID-19 case growth slows

Province holding about 40% of beds empty for peak still to come

75-year-old woman rescued from Cowichan Lake

Victim taken to hospital, but expected to recover

Most Read